A/N - Sorry that its been a while since this one was updated. I haven't forgotten it don't worry. Thanks for all the favorites and all the reviews. All reviews that are not just silly complaining are welcomed and appreciated. Special thanks goes to my beta for getting this done in record time. Thanks Dalm!

"Well, Marie the baby seems fine. Very active in fact, which is a good sign," Doctor Martin said.

Marie smiled, "Qui, doctor. I feel him moving around all hours, but it is good to hear you say everything is well. Benjamin will be pleased. I will be able to get up soon, qui?"

"Hmm," said the doctor storing his hearing instrument in his black leather doctor's bag

"There is a problem, doctor?"

"Well I am just a little concerned over your pulse rate, my dear. Are you sure that nothing that has happened today is bothering you? If you are worrying about betraying a confidence, I should remind you that I am a very good listener and my medical oath prevents me from saying anything you don't want me to. May I also remind you that Ben and I are good friends and he would want me to do everything I could to protect both you and the birth of his unborn child?" He snapped his bag shut and the turned back to face her. "Ben told me about what happened at school with the boys. Marie is that what is worrying you?"

Marie closed her eyes and nodded. "Mon petite Cherie, Eric. He is such a tender heart and it vexes me so to hear that he is teased. As for Adam... Oh doctor, I try so hard to get him to accept me, but I think he still sees me as an invader to his family. I try to offer all the comforts of a mother to both boys, but whilst Eric is happy to accept, Adam he is just not of the accepting kind. I just want to show him that I care for him as much as I do his father. Am I doing something wrong?"

"Adam is a very different boy, my dear and he has been through much for his young age, but he is still just a boy, Marie. Persevere with what you are doing and he will eventually learn that you are not seeking to replace Inger, nor do you wish to. Adam is just as tender-hearted under that tough exterior he has built up, Marie."

By the time Ben had finished his story for Hoss and kissed him goodnight, the doctor had eased Marie's fears considerably.

"Well, Marie I am glad that I have eased your worries somewhat." He smiled at her and patted her hand, "We must keep that blood pressure of yours down and steady to keep you and that baby as healthy as possible."

"Thank you for listening to my worries, Mon doctor. Benjamin has indeed made a good friend in you."

"Why thank you very much, Marie. I hope that you will consider me a friend too?" He stood from the chair and collected his bag. "I'll let you rest now and I'll be by in a few days to see how you are, unless Ben calls me back sooner, alright?

"Yes, doctor and thank you for listening to me."

"Anytime, Marie. Now get some rest, Dr's orders!"

Marie laughed lightly, "I will remain in bed for the rest of the night I promise, doctor."

"Good," he said and walked to the door. "Goodnight, my dear. I hope you have a restful night." With that Paul Martin took his leave of the bedroom, only to bump into Ben on the landing.

"How is she, Paul? Any Problems?" Ben asked.

"She's fine, Ben nothing to worry about. Just see that she rests as much as possible for a few more days, then I think I could allow her up and about a little more."

"Can I bring her downstairs and out onto the porch for some fresh air tomorrow?"

"Only if you carry her and not for too long, Ben. It's too cold outside now. As to the baby, he is very active tonight which is good news, oh and I don't want Marie's blood pressure raised by anything either. The longer we keep that down the better chance the baby has."

"He? You know she is carrying a boy?"

The doctor chuckled, "It's just an expression, Ben. Although given your history I reckon that having a boy is a better than fair chance and I think Marie wants nothing more than to bear you a son, anyway."

Ben smiled, "So long as the baby is healthy, Paul I don't care what sex it is. Although, a girl might lead to a lot of changes around here." He clapped the doctor on the shoulder, "Now, how about a game of chess over a glass of my newest brandy?"

"I'd love to, but only one or two games tonight."

" Agreed, please go on down and help yourself to the brandy." He indicated the bedroom with his head, "I'll join you very shortly."

"Alright, Ben but don't fuss over her too much, doctors' orders. She needs to rest."

Ben gave his friend a mock glare. That just made the other man chuckle. "Your glares don't work on me, Ben Cartwright." He pointed to the bedroom door, "Go on and go see your wife and don't do anything to raise that blood pressure."

Ben gave off a harrumph and muttered under his breath whilst scowling towards the doctor, but he went to enter the bedroom, as advised by the doctor. Paul Martin meanwhile just chuckled at his friend's antics and carried on making his way down the stairs, chuckling all the way.

"How are you feeling, my dear?" Ben asked when he entered the room. Marie rolled back onto her side to face him as he sat down on the side on the bed. "Did that old goat poke you about a lot?" he asked

"Benjamin! That doctor is your good friend, n'est'pas? You call him le old goat in affection, qui?"

"Certainly, my dear when he tries to advise me about things that I know full well about!" replied Ben jovially and he brushed a lock of hair back to behind her ear.

Marie rolled her eyes heavenward. "You men and the teasing!" she scolded.

Ben chuckled, "It's just playful teasing banter between friends, Marie." He caressed her cheek gently. "The doctor said we need to watch your blood pressure. Is there a reason that it may be getting raised, that you're not telling me?"

She nodded. "Benjamin, I wish to talk to you about the boys, but you have a guest downstairs and the doctor tells me I need to rest and I do feel quite tired. So we will talk on morrow, Qui?"

"Yes, my love we will talk tomorrow when I come home from town, I promise!" he stood and bent down to kiss her forehead. "I will try not to wake you when I come up." He rose to standing, "Rest now, my love. Goodnight, God bless and sweet dreams." Marie smiled up at him and Ben turned down the lamp and walked to the door. "I love you, Marie with all my heart."

"I know, Mon Cherie, and I love you to, Benjamin with all of my heart. Now go see your friend and be a good host."

Ben smiled and left the bedroom. Marie closed her eyes as soon as the door closed and being exhausted she was in a deep slumber before Ben reached the bottom of the stairs.

"Ben, I've poured your brandy and have decided that you can be white tonight," said the doctor sitting at the games table, which had been setup in the middle of the area by the fireplace. The doctor and Hop Sing had pushed back both the coffee table and the large sofa, to allow for the games table. The doctor had then set up the game, with the chess pieces arranged on the chessboard, with black on his side.

Ben joined him at the table, sinking into his own comfortable armchair. "And what pray tell is your plan tonight, my friend? Have you tampered with my pieces?" he teased.

"As if I would, Benjamin Cartwright?" the Dr said with mock indigence. "Just because you have won the last 10 games does not mean I am that desperate to get my revenge." Ben grinned and took a long pull of his brandy. "Besides," added the Dr with a smirk, "I don't need to, I've spike your brandy!"

Ben scowled at that and studied the dark liquid in the glass, in his hand. "If you have messed with my best bottle of brandy, doctor!?"

"You'll tie me to a post and make me drink it till I pass out and then kill me. Yes, yes I've heard all the threats before, my friend. Now take your move please. I've a game to win!"

The two men kept up volume of playful taunts as they played, mystifying Hop Sing as to why. It had become a routine with Ben and the Doctor when playing games, particularly chess and the young cook, come housekeeper could never understand why. His boss, Mr Cartwright never behaved like this with the other guests who visited the house. Mr Edwards came over regularly and he and Ben were also very good friends, but they never exchanged banter like this.

After 40 minutes or so, Hop Sing entered the room. "I bring hot coffee, ."

"Ah, thank you Hop Sing," Ben said and with that he moved his glass for the tray to be put on his left. "Can you believe this so-called doctor messed with my brandy, Hop Sing?"

"No, Mr. Cartlight. Should Hop Sing throw rest of decanter away?"

The doctor snorted in laughter at Ben's horrified face.

"No!" said Ben vehemently then he calmed his voice. "No thank you, Hop Sing I am sure he just messed with my glass, to stop me from beating him soundly, again."

"The game is not over, Ben. I have yet another strategy in my mind, don't you worry," countered the doctor still chuckling at Ben's face.

"You need anything else, Mr. Cartlight?"

"No thank you, Hop Sing. You can retire if you like. I will lock up when the doctor leaves."

"Thank you, goodnight Mr. Cartlight. Good evening, Dr."

"And good evening to you, Hop Sing and thank you again for a sumptuous meal."

Hop Sing bowed to both men slightly and then he left them to their game returning, to his own quarters via the kitchen.

"You should have seen your face when he asked if he should dispose of the rest of your brandy, Ben. You shouldn't say things like that around him you know, he takes things so literally because his English isn't so good," said the doctor. He accepted the cup of coffee Ben poured and passed for him and reached to add sugar and some milk. He could drink it black, if need be, as most people didn't have the luxury of money for either, but he did prefer to drink it with 3 spoonful's of sugar and a dash of milk or cream, as he had a bit of a sweet tooth.

The two men continued with their game and to Ben's surprise the doctor beat him.

"Checkmate!" said the doctor with a smirk. "Ha gotcha at last, Ben. I said I had another strategy for the game didn't I? And you fell from my sacrifices!"

Ben looked down at the board incredulously for a second, verifying that it was definitely checkmate. Realising quickly that he had lost the game he offered his hand. "Well, Paul I have to say well done. You conned me well and truly. I never saw it coming. Another game?"

The Dr glanced at the clock, "Yes alright, but it has to be the last one tonight, for definite."

Ben set up the board, then he turned the board around. "You can be white this time. They are obviously unlucky for me tonight. Let's see how they are for you!" he added with a smirk.

The doctor snorted before sipping at his coffee. "A bad general blames his troops, Ben when he should blame himself."

"Yes, so I hear," Ben replied with a smile. "So we will see if you are lucky or good general with these men, won't we? " Ben picked up his own coffee and took a sip. "I believe it's your first move, doctor."

They weren't far into the game, when there was a loud banging at the door.

"What the?..." growled Ben and he stalked over and grabbing his gun from the holster on the credenza he carefully cracked the door, glad that they always left the lantern, on the hook over the porch, lit at night. He looked out, gun in sight.

"Don't shoot, Mr. Cartwright," said a young boy of Adam's age.

"David? Good lord boy! What in tarnation are you doing out at this time of night alone?"

"Please, Mr. Cartwright, is Dr. Martin here?"

"Yes, he is. Come on in, out of the cold." Ben stepped back to allow the boy entry and hearing the conversation the doctor left his seat as well.

"Ben, get a blanket! David come over and warm yourself by the fire," he ordered.

Ben fetched a throw from the stairs and he wrapped it around David's shoulders and the doctor handed the distressed boy some warm coffee.

"Thanks," he replied and he gulped down the drink gratefully.

"Now, just what's brought you out here, son?" asked the doctor his voice thick with concern when the boy was ready to speak.

"Ma is having the baby and she sent me for you. Something is wrong! She was yelling out something awful, doc, but when I rode to the clinic I found that you weren't in town. Mr. Carter said he thought ya was coming here, so I high tailed it here as fast as my pony could ride. Will you come help, please?"

Yes, of course. I'll get my bag. Sorry, Ben the rest of the game will have to wait." He went to get his bag and his coat on.

Ben waived off the apology with his hand, "The game doesn't matter, Paul. Just go."

David stood up, after having finished his coffee and the doctor put a hand on his back, "Let's go, son," the doctor said.

"Thank you, Mr. Cartwright," said the boy trying to take off the blanket when they reached the door, that Ben opened for them.

"No, keep it on, David. It's cold out and we'll take my buggy, it's faster and you will be warmer," said the doctor.

"But, doc I need to take Blackie back home."

"It'll be much quicker if we both go in my buggy, David" said the doctor, guiding him towards it he lifted him up into it. "Now sit there and wrap up good."

"Don't worry, I'll take good care of your pony, David and then Adam will bring him home for you tomorrow. I hope everything goes ok with your Ma," said Ben.

"You will? Gee thanks, Mr. Cartwright."

"Ben, we need to get going," said the doctor urgently, after stashing his bag and getting up into the front seat.

"Go!" said Ben, stepping backwards to allow the buggy free movement. He watched the doctor check that his passenger was settled safely and then the doctor clicked the reigns and the buggy took off out of the yard and made its way down the dusty trail, as fast as the doctor dared drive it in the dark. Luckily, the light from the half moon was helping him to avoid the deeper ruts in the trail. Ben watched until they were out of sight then went to check over the pony.

"Let's get you settled down with some oats and water shall we?" he said taking the reins.

"Mr. Cartlight you need Hop Sing to help you do anything?" asked the small China man from where he stood on the porch. "I heard people at door and doctor rush out."

"No, Hop Sing, it's alright I've got this. Go on back to bed."

"Yes, Mr. Cartlight." He disappeared back into the house immediately.

Ben took the pony by the reigns into the barn. At the door he lit a lantern, then led him into a free part of Beauty's stall. Adam's pony was in a large stall on her own and she didn't seem to mind having a companion to share it.

Ben removed the saddled and worn blanket from the poor exhausted pony and sighed at the state of the pony's coat under it.

"He has ridden you ragged hasn't he?" he muttered. He tied the pony up to where it could get a drink whilst he took care of him.

Ben wiped down the pony's lathered coat, angry at its condition, but he also knew that the youngster had ridden his mount hard for a good reason. Having a baby in the still wildish west was fraught with difficulty and babies and expectant mothers often died, when in larger towns and cities with better access to medical care, someone may have saved them.

As he washed and brushed the pony's coat Ben prayed that his friend, of 7 years, would be able to get to David's mother in time, to save the mother from severe problems and bring the new life into the world, alive.

When Ben was finished with the care of its coat, he covered the pony in a better horse blanket for warmth and fed him some oats. He then loosened the bridle off further so it could eat and move around in the stall. Ben patted Beauty and then bade both ponies and Buck and the other barn inhabitants' goodnight before blowing out the lantern and securing the barn door once again.

Returning to the house, he locked up and yawning made his way up the stairs. He looked in on his boys, as normal, Eric first. He ended up rearranging the younger boy back into bed properly before kissing his forehead tenderly. "Goodnight son," he whispered in Hoss' ear. The boy never stirred at all.

Adam was in his room across the hall from the younger boy. He was in his bed properly, but Ben found his feet uncovered and so he again covered them, not wanting them to get cold and Adam to get a chill. Ben left Adam's room after wishing him a soft "goodnight, son." Then he went to his own bedroom.

"Is that you Benjamin?" asked Marie in a whisper and she turned as much as she could and squinted at him.

"Yes, my love, it's me. Go back to sleep." he whispered back softly as he undressed.

Marie reached for him and within moments Ben was dressed in his nightwear and climbed into bed, he moved in nearer and brought her closer to hold her in his arms, kissing her side temple as she rested her head on him.

"I heard voices outside a while ago, Benjamin. Is everything alright?"

"Yes, my love, it was just someone after the doctor." He kissed her gently again. "Go back to sleep now, my love, everything here is just fine." Content and feeling safe in her husband's arms Marie soon dropped off and Ben wasn't much further behind her.

The next morning Ben rose early as usual. Not wanting to disturb Marie, he collected his shaving things and a towel and he left the room quietly, only to bump into Adam on the landing.

"Good morning, son. Sleep alright?"

"Yes, sir I did, thanks," Adam returned with a yawn.

They both made their way downstairs. Adam went straight to the kitchen to see Hop Sing, whilst Ben went outside to the water pump, to get some water to shave with. Water obtained in a small bucket, he set his mirror up against the bucket, on the table built into the porch. He was just starting to shave under his chin, when movement and a sound to his left made him stop using his razor. There before him stood the 12-year-old Adam.

"Is it alright if I watch you shave, Pa?" he said.

"Yes of course, son," replied Ben with a grin. "Come on over here and sit where you can see what I am doing."

A small smile flitted across the young boy's face and he came to sit where Ben indicated so he could see properly. He watched and listened as Ben carefully explained how important it was to note the direction of the bristles growth and how to place the razor against the skin to avoid nicks.

It had been quite a while since Adam had wanted to be around his father and so both of them enjoyed the time together being father and son. Especially Ben, who relished the chance to teach his son the important life skill.

After Adam had had a go at "shaving" himself, with a stick instead of the razor, as guided by his father, both father and son went into the house chuckling, with Ben's arm around his son's shoulders.

Hop Sing caught sight of the light nod and wide smile towards him from the younger Cartwright and with a small smile to himself, he returned to the kitchen with his tray to fetch Ben's morning coffee.

The China man returned a few minutes later with coffee in a pot for Ben and a glass of freshly pressed apple juice for Adam.

"Thank you, Hop Sing," said Ben.

"Thanks, Hop Sing," said Adam when the glass was placed down in front of him.

"Is Missy Cartlight having breakfast today, Mr. Cartlight?"

"Yes, Hop Sing, but I'd leave it for a while still, the doctor still wants her in bed for another day and I'd like to let her sleep in a while longer."

"Yes, Mr. Cartlight. You think she might want some scrambled egg, potato cakes and bacon and some of my sweet and spice apple juice?"

"I think she would be happy to eat normally now, the same as us, Hop Sing, so whatever you prepare will be just fine. But just leave it until at least an hour from now, alright?"

"Yes, Mr. Cartlight."

"And just what do you have in mind for us this morning then, Hop Sing?" said Ben brightly.

The confused China man looked back at him, "Potato cakes, bacon….."

"Eggs and sweet and spicy apple juice?" offered Adam, just about holding in his chuckles, but the smirk on his face betrayed him.

"Yes masser, Adam," said Hop Sing normally and that is what took Adam over the edge and he started giggling profusely.

In a good mood himself, Ben made a light swipe towards the boy. "Alright you cheeky young pup, it's not seemly to mock your elders."

"Oh come on, Pa you could have figured that out yourself surely?" Adam countered cheekily.

A bemused Hop Sing just waited by the table. "You no want that, Mr. Cartlight?"

Adam burst into further laughter at that and Ben made another grab for his eldest and pulled him close and ruffled his recently combed hair. "Eggs, bacon and potato cakes will be just fine, Hop Sing," he said chuckling, as Adam mock squirmed in his father's hold.

A/ N2: Thanks so much for reading and sticking with the story guys. if you enjoy please review it makes posting up worthwhile :)

ulls x